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Judy Garland: By Myself
Remind Me

Judy Garland: By Myself

As Hollywood biographies go, Judy Garland's story is one of the saddest success stories you'll ever hear. The sanitized studio version of her life presented a smiling kid with the big voice, who, alongside Mickey Rooney, just wanted to put on a show. But drugs, overwork, even psychological abuse at the hands of the studio is now part of the Garland legend. But despite the number of Garland books and documentaries, one account has always been missing -- Garland herself never managed to write a memoir. She did make several attempts at an autobiography, often recording stories on a tape recorder. Judy Garland: By Myself (2004), finally fills in the blanks - using Judy's personal recordings to tell the story in her own words.

Actress Isabel Keating, who played Garland on Broadway in The Boy from Oz, re-voiced Judy's recordings for the documentary (the recording quality of the originals was uneven). The recreation loses none of Garland's spirit and is captivating from her first words -- "this is the story of my life and I, Judy Garland, am gonna talk."

And talk she does. Garland holds nothing back in her recollections. She touches on the personal as well as the very public aspects of her life.

Judy on work and the press:
"I made 28 films in 14 years - and 4 more later on - not to mention concert tours, recordings, radio and TV shows. And to hear the press tell it, a come back every time I went to the powder room."

On the pills the studio fed her:
"That's the way we worked, and that's the way we got thin. That's the way we got mixed up. And that's the way we lost contact with the world."

On MGM's "mismanagement of her self-esteem":
"Mr. Mayer called me his little hunchback. He said I looked like a fat monster. So orders went down to the commissary - whatever Garland orders, give her chicken broth."

And on her self-image:
"In the movies beauty was the standard of judgment and I definitely didn't have it. And so I began to dislike the me I saw reflected in my mirror. Especially when I compared myself to the real beauties on the lot, like Lana Turner."

Judy's words are supported by a wealth of film clips, interviews, musical performances and photos. Of course all the celebrated Garland movie scenes from Wizard of Oz (1939) and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) to Summer Stock (1950) and A Star Is Born (1954) are included in Judy Garland: By Myself. But there is also footage from lesser known moments of Garland's career. Several early clips include: a 1929 short Bubbles that features Judy singing with her sisters; a 1936 short Every Sunday showcasing Judy and Deanna Durbin; and an audio clip of Garland's 1935 radio debut, introduced by Wallace Beery. There's also a fun class photo of Judy's MGM school days - Garland is pictured alongside classmates such as Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Bartholomew, Lana Turner and Deanna Durbin.

Some less happy moments are included in the documentary as well, such as footage from Annie Get Your Gun (1950). Health reasons forced Garland to withdraw from the picture. She was replaced by Betty Hutton. There are also clips from Garland's later stage shows and her CBS TV show that seem bittersweet. She was clearly struggling by this point, yet, at the same time, her personality and talent still shone brilliantly. Some of the best footage comes from The Judy Garland Show - there is one unbelievable clip with Judy, Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand singing together. And another, lighter moment, reteaming Judy and Mickey in a dance.

Judy Garland: By Myself leaves it to Judy to sum up her own story - with a nod to her fans. "I would like audiences to know I've been in love with them all my life," says Garland. "And I've tried to please. I hope I did."

Producer: George Feltenstein, John Fricke, Susan Lacy, Roger Mayer
Director: Susan Lacy
Screenplay: Susan Lacy, Stephen Stept
Film Editing: Kate Hirson, Kristen Huntley, Deborah Peretz
Music: Thomas Wagner
Cast: Judy Garland, Isabel Keating (voice of Judy Garland), Joey Luft, Lorna Luft, Liza Minnelli, Harris Yulin (narrator).

by Stephanie Thames